On Wednesday afternoon, December 7, I flew to Atlanta to attend the annual National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference, where I presented a workshop session on Thursday morning with my fabulous colleague, Sherri Spelic. My other fabulous colleague, Chris Rogers, was unable to attend, but was with us in power. Additionally, Chris contributed the inspirational and thought-provoking reading/pair/share activity in which attendees actively engaged. Speaking of attendees: there were approximately 30, more than I think either Sherri or I anticipated. Our workshop was entitled, “Blogging Beyond the Classroom: Online Engagement for Professional and Personal Growth.”
Upon returning to my school the following Monday, several colleagues asked the inevitable questions: “How was the conference?”, and “How was your presentation”? To which I responded, “Great!” and “Wonderful!” to both. But, it wasn’t until I had an opportunity to sit down with a colleague at lunch that afternoon that the words to convey the experience came to me: Writing, and more specifically, writing via a blog, connects teachers to their voice. This could not be more true for me as a Black teacher in an independent school.
Independent schools, by design, were created for the wealthy white elite – male and female alike, but mostly male – as islands of privilege, and incubators of racism and white supremacy. To be certain, independent schools, for the most part, have been greatly transformed over the years to be more inclusive and diverse, and have taken up the banner of equity and social justice in a variety of ways. Still, privilege, racism and white supremacy are inherent in the culture of independent schools, and are elements which they must continue to dismantle.
For all of the many good things independent school teaching have afforded me for nearly 23 years, I also recognize that the culture and climate of independent schools can be especially challenging for people of color, both professionally and personally. They become places where we are often unable to be real, to be authentic, and to speak our truths, which can prove intellectually, emotionally and spiritually damaging. As a counterweight to these challenges, writing for me is a sense-making tool: I am figuring things out, and reserve the right to be as culpable and as imperfect as any other human being. Additionally, writing has not only allowed me to speak my truth, but also to be heard, to be affirmed, to be healed, to be cleansed, and to be renewed. It has allowed me to have a voice when I otherwise would not have one, and, in the process, to arrive at a new level of understanding. For nearly ten years, writing via my blog has connected and re-connected me to my voice, to my true and authentic self.
I hope that the workshop my colleagues and I delivered has inspired at least one attendee to begin to blog, or, to jumpstart an existing blog. But, more importantly, I hope that at least one person was inspired to connect to his or her voice, for that one voice will touch many.